Thomas John Fontana, age 75, passed away Monday, February 27, 2023. Born January 19, 1948, in Madison, WI to Alden and Marjorie Britton, Tom grew up on the East side of Madison attending public school, playing football, taking part in Cub Scout activities and helping his parents with their veterinary supply business. When not in Madison, he could be found up North in Spring Valley on his Grandparents' farm. Tom was particularly fond of riding horses bareback, fishing along Cady Creek, and tending to award winning cattle that he would regularly show at the Minnesota State Fair. Above all he loved time with his Grandma, Grace. She was a guiding light in his life and helped raise him while his parents were building their business.
As the family vet supply business grew, opportunities increased for the family and they would often take time to travel and see what was beyond the state of Wisconsin. Tom was a world traveler and had circumnavigated the world multiple times before he was a high school graduate. Some of his favorite destinations included Denmark, Switzerland, Thailand, Lebanon, and the Hawaiian Islands.
In the Spring of 1966 Tom graduated from East High School and the following Fall began his journey in higher education at Stout State University. For the next several years he learned to be a craftsman in multiple disciplines as an Industrial Education Major. Tom graduated with honors in 1971 with the intention to start a teaching career, however, the draft board called up his number and he was inducted into the US Army. With his boots on the ground in Vietnam, Tom saw action as a mortarman and participated in several fire missions to help other troops in the field. In one instance he helped save a hospital that was under attack by firing rounds all throughout the night on various positions. After serving on active duty for a year in-country, Tom was home on leave and enjoying an afternoon at the beach of Lake Monona. He saw two young ladies about to leave and took a chance to talk to one of them. A brief conversation followed and he asked for her phone number. She gave him her name, and told him to look it up in the phone book. In September of 1972 they were married and headed out to Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, CO. They lived there for the remaining year of Tom’s obligatory military service and then in 1973 moved back to Madison.
Tom started his career at various automotive dealerships before becoming a Master Automotive Technician for The City of Madison, Fleet Services. Working there for 31 years prior to retirement, he attained multiple awards, most notably that of ASE World Class Technician in 1990 and again in 2010 (a distinction only 2000 individuals have ever earned) with the associated honor of having his name permanently in the Automotive Hall of Fame. Tom was also a part-time instructor at Madison College for 10 years, teaching Air Conditioning, Accessories, and Automotive Electronics.
He found joy dancing to Doo Wop, cruisin’ in his ‘66 Chevelle, eating Tom Thumb Donuts at the MN State Fair, playing saucer with his cherished dog Chloe and sharing countless adventures with his family. His selfless, thoughtful and generous nature shone through in everything he did.
A few special memories about Tom from his wife and children:
There are so many everyday moments that connect us and our lives together. I will always be grateful for our family and the fun we had. Eating ice cream with “the Flake” in Ireland, traveling the 101 in California, rafting down the Snake River, riding in the Chevelle in Colorado while the radio played “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver. We loved going to the movies, trips to Las Vegas and taking in the fountains of Bellagio, shopping for gifts, visiting the “507,” hot air balloon festivals, train rides including Durango to Silverton, and time spent in Paris with nightly visits to Le Tour Eiffel. We’ll always have Paris in the Springtime.
Saturday morning cartoons with blankets, hot chocolate and toast; throwing a baseball around, visits to the comic book store, Sunday afternoon Kung Fu movies, Starblazers animated series, my Dad’s coughing laugh while watching a comedy film, baseball card shows in Madison and Chicago, his love for Motown music and the wall of sound along with his deep knowledge and love for 50’s and 60’s music. The agonizing hours he spent helping me with Algebra y=mx + b … I finally get it and will never forget it. Whenever I fly a kite, I remember all the hours we spent together.
Last minute Christmas shopping missions, “weedhopping,” chasing hot air balloons, Saturday morning pancake breakfasts, action movie marathons, middle of the night anime, “American Graffiti” and Milner’s Coupe, “Now Daddy…!” playing “Pretty, Pretty Princess,” Teddy Ruxpin, “Rhythm & Booms,” always having a story to share (or two or three), layered like an onion, single handedly building his grandson a construction equipment empire, profound/literary masterpiece greeting cards, continuing and constant learning/education with near encyclopedic knowledge.
His family will forever be grateful for his unwavering care, love and support. He was one of a kind and will always be in the hearts of all who knew him and the lives he touched.
Tom is survived by his wife of 50 years, Sharon Fontana, son John Fontana, daughter Ann (Sungjin) Park, father-in-law Jack Hitchcock, and grandson Eli Park. He is preceded in death by his parents.
A private service with military honors will be held at a later date.
Please share your memories of Tom by posting on his Tribute Wall.
Cress Funeral Service
5801 Highway 51, PO Box 105, McFarland